Russia's investigative committee opens criminal inquiry after footage of teen caretakers beating under-10s goes viral
Miriam Elder in Moscow
Two young caretakers are being investigated over allegations of torture after a horrific video showing the systematic beating of seven children at a Russian orphanage went viral.
The video shows seven boys in their underclothes lined up against a wall as a caretaker calls them forward one by one, only to grab them by the arm and lash them repeatedly with a belt. She kicks some of them and shoves them away, before grabbing the next child. The boys shriek and wail as the caretaker continues to beat them, at one point shouting: "Go to bed!"
The video, shot on a mobile phone at the Mazanovsky orphanage in the far eastern region of Amur, sparked widespread outrage after it was shared widely on the internet this week.
On Friday, Russia's investigative committee opened a criminal investigation into two teenage caretakers, themselves a product of the orphanage. A third caretaker suspected of involvement was born in 1998 and is too young to be investigated, it said.
The boys who were beaten were between the ages of seven and 10, and are being given psychological counselling, it added. The director of the orphanage, home to 129 children, has been fired.
An employee of the Mazanovsky orphanage, speaking to local news portal Amur.info on condition of anonymity, said everyone at the school was aware of the regular beatings. She recounted a conversation with one of the caretakers: "She said, 'I was beaten in the orphanage, and I will beat.'"
The scandal has highlighted the often poor state of Russia's orphanage system, whose methods and infrastructure remain little changed from Soviet times. According to Russia's children's rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov, there are about 650,000 children in Russian orphanages. Most have living parents.
"Cruelty and violence among children is a scary and dangerous trend, which the whole world must battle, uniting the efforts of society and the government," Astakhov wrote on Twitter.
The scandal emerged as Russia takes steps to limit foreign adoptions, consigning thousands of children to life in dreary orphanages.
In December, it banned Americans from adopting Russian children in response to a US law barring Russians suspected of involvement in the prison death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky from entering the US or keeping bank accounts there.
The law, strongly backed by President Vladimir Putin, was widely criticised by many inside Russia.
Last month, Putin said Russia would consider banning foreign same-sex couples from adopting Russian children, after France became the latest country to legalise same-sex marriage.
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